Soldering is Easy: CC licensed HOWTO solder comic

"Soldering is Easy" is a great comic-book primer on soldering; I field tested it this week at the Vancouver Hackspace's table at SIGGRAPH 2011 and managed to solder up a perfectly passable blinking lights kit with only minor burns for my trouble (a major feat, given a) my general clum, and b) my specific jetlag). It's CC licensed, natch.

Soldering is Easy


  1. Pretty inspirational to see this!  Soldering is way up high on my list of things I’d like to do, but when I have tried to do it half-assed (no sponge, wire scavenged from wherever) have turned out kind of badly.  Not burning down the house badly, but still. . .

    Anyway, maybe it’s time to give it another go this weekend

  2. I hadn’t realized it was CC-licensed.  I downloaded for the Kindle and the 6-frames-per-page format is just too small.  I think I will try to rework it to 1-per-page to make it more Kindle-friendly.  The content, however, is excellent.

  3. When I was young I used to turn AM tube radios into distortion boxes. This one time I was doing that and for some reason I was wearing just my tighty whities.

    No, no. hear me out. This is an important lesson….

    My hand slipped and the 40 watt Radio Shack soldiering iron fell…. downwards.

    Here’s the moral of our story:
    1) your reflexes don’t always make the right decision
    2) the palm of your hand tastes a bit like potato chips if you lick it after a burn
    3) most importantly: don’t wear tighty whities

    Be careful with soldering irons, my friends.

    1. Wait, the palm of your hand was what got burned?

      On a different note, this was just what I was looking for.  I have a project going on that will require a lot of soldering, and lets just say it’s not as easy as I remember it being.

      1. I reflexively grabbed the iron before it hit my crotch area.

        I haven’t done much soldering in the past few years. De-soldering is even harder though, if you care what happens to the components.

  4. I learned to solder, from my Dad (a metalsmith who had to do it for a living) many years ago.  As much as I *love* this comic, it’s got a few flaws.  Really, this is “How to Solder Small Components to Perf Boards”.   Soldering sheet, or pipe has somewhat different challenges.   Whenever I see “best” on any document, I always say “really?”.  Lead/Tin solder as best for electronics? I don’t agree.  Tin/Silver/Copper solder is what the vast majority of industry use. In fact, silver-bearing solders in general are preferred.  Lead-free solders as “toxic”? A strange statement considering lead-bearing solders are banned for use on potable water pipes and such. Lead-free solders are mandated there. 
    Personally, I can’t stand flux-core solders. I prefer to apply flux separately…YMMV.  Getting rid of excess solder by banging your parts on the bench? Don’t do that.  Get desoldering braid or a solder-sucker.  Your board should be held in a handy clamp anyway so it doesn’t move around on you. One good point made: clean clean clean.  Oxides are not your friend when joining metals.  While I’m spewing info… get a block of Sal Ammoniac to tin your iron.  You will only need one in your lifetime. Better than a dang wet sponge…which is always dry when you need it!  One point not strongly made here that I find is critical: Heat the work, not the solder.  You want to heat the joint with the solder and touch the solder to the joint.    The only other thing I would add here is to mention heat can damage electronics. Ideally, socket your ICs, or if not, add a heat sink to parts. I used to keep a few old copper pennies and a dab of heatsink goop around for that.  

  5. All the American soldering guides I’ve seen tell you to bend the leads of components so they don’t fall out.  We were told (UK EE course) never to do this as it makes removing the part later much harder.  It’s better just to spend a little extra time getting the component in place with straight leads.

    Has anyone one heard this or have any opinions?

    I tend to do it with straight leads as that’s how I was taught.

    1. I do it straight, as that’s what I was taught as well. But for removal, I tend to clip the part off from the top, heat the pad and then push a thin, wet, toothpick into the hole.  This pushes the wire out, and prevents the hole from filling in.  I read about the toothpick trick years ago…works on most large PCBs.  

    2. Clinching the leads generally depends on the assembly guide for what you are building.  You also have to be careful that if you do clinch them, that they don’t violate minimum electrical clearance to other components on the solder side of the board. The IPC-J-STD is pretty much the guiding document these days in industry. Looking at that comic I think it would probably be great for Maker stuff and hobbyists, but it doesn’t address stress relief or lead forming well enough to use as a document for industry or training assemblers for Hi-rel CCA assembly.

      I clinch leads. If I have to rework a board and replace a component I cut the component from the leads and remove each lead separately.

  6. I love the pencil of electronics. erase this section, add another, improve. 

    Especially re-soldering cheap electronics that use fly hairs for wire.
    Dead PC power suppies are great resources for decent gauge wires that color-match.

    And calluses. pick a finger and commit to it. or use a clamp.

    Invest in shrink wrap tubing. . remember to put the wrap on _before_ soldering.

  7. Clean the leads of the components first BEFORE bending them or pushing them through the PCB… use fine grade wet-or-dry paper or an ink eraser. Makes a massive difference in the success of the result and helps prevent dry joints.

  8. I did a soldering project not too long ago. My Samsung monitor blew some capacitors (apparently very common).

    Popped down to the local electrical shop, bought some replacements, got out my trusty soldering iron and removed the old caps and put the new ones in.

    It was pretty easy to do, but then again, I watched quite a few videos of people doing the same thing on Youtube before I attempted it, just to make sure I knew what I was doing. (Hurray for youtube!)

    Monitor is now picture perfect. Not bad for $10 worth of capacitors.

    1. It does seem (in my not-so-vast experience) that electrolytic caps are failure-prone (as opposed to, say, resistors). I had an old synthesizer that kept re-booting, for lack of a better term.  I replaced the caps in the power supply and the problem went away.

  9. Consumer electronics hasn’t used classic resistors and capacitors for several decades. Everything is surface mounted. I had to attempt to revive some audio boards loaded with surface mounted caps. You need a machinists magnifier  for your eyes and a good light source. The comment above re sacrificing one or more fingers to heat callouses is well put. Learning to use solder wick and other de-soldering devices is essential as is flowing just enough new solder when mounting the replacement part. Tweezers, scribes (aka toad stabbers), needle nose pliers, and hemostats are handy tools to have. Using an impedance meter to find bad caps is essential. It’s essentially an ohm meter that uses a 5 kHz signal to check the viability of a cap without de-soldering it first.

  10.  I have had military specification soldering training, and only hand soldered items have bent leads, and there is a way to do it which will not over stress the lead, which keep component to board height uniform when the board is turned over to solder it. Most circuit boards are not hand soldered, and do not need this treatment.

  11. I have a PCB kit for sequential flashing LEDS sitting on my workbench downstairs, the first I’ve ever assembled, and next to me is the bag of LEDs I’m using to modify the kit to light parts of a prop robot. This could not have shown up at a better time.

  12. I had a gig for a few years that involved creating a lot of audio cables. Much soldering and shrink wrap heating.

    But I’ve lost most of my chops and, a few years ago, going against my better judgement and working with an $8 soldering iron, I managed to play a mean trick on the Harmon Kardon pre-amp from the mid-80s. I saved up for that thing for years (poor college student audiophile, working my way through school). Hurting my amp more sort of put me off the soldering for a while.

    So I am very happy to see this post and to read the comments. Getting back into soldering has been on my things I want to do list for quite a while.

    So I want to thank Cory and all of you knowledgeable commentators for re-igniting my fervor to start soldering again.

    One of the things that frustrates me the most these days is that electronics aren’t built to last; they’re built for obsolescence. And I hate that. When my old Krups grinder gives up the ghost. I want to go in that thang and fix it. And not damage it further.

  13. They forgot about two more ways how you can easily break your project: damaging the more delicate components with static electricity and damaging them with the heat from the iron.

  14. Not sure why it says desoldering is harder. Desoldering with a decent solder sucker and needle-nose pliers is way easier than soldering, I feel. I know some people prefer solder wick to a solder sucker, but I’ve never got on well with that stuff.

    When desoldering, you’re just removing the component and cleaning the pad. Heat the solder, schlurp it away, wiggle the leg gently with pliers, and when all legs are free, let the component drop free, or pull it gently off with the pliers. If it refuses to come free, heat the legs again with the iron to melt the residue holding them.

    When soldering, the temperature of the iron is important, as are the type of solder, and shape and consistency of the resulting join (to me, aesthetically, anyway). Big globs and dry joints are not good. It’s easy to go wrong, and get a join that differs slightly from the perfect concave cone joint.

    I had a whole rack of salvaged components back in the day. I blame my component-stripping days in an unventillated room for my fading faculties nowadays.

    I’d love to see an SMT version of this. As makers, we have to mod what’s out there, and what’s out there is SMT stuff. I’d really love tips on working with SMT devices without using a pick-n-place and a solder bath.

    I’ve heard toaster ovens can be used instead of solder baths…?

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